The Murder of Mary Malpas

The following is a transcript of a report in the Staffordshire Advertiser, July 1835.


The residents at this delightful place and neighbourhood (the demesne of Sir J.Broughton) which, as most of our readers are aware, is on the confines of Cheshire and adjoining to the western side of Staffordshire, were thrown into a state of the greatest anxiety and alarm on Monday morning last, by the awful intelligence that a young female had been found in a field cruelly murdered. The melancholy tidings were speedily authenticated and almost all doubts as to the perpetrator of the horrid crime were removed by another gloomy circumstance - the discovery that a man had hung himself at a short distance from the place where the poor girl had lost her life, and connected with suspicious circumstances that naturally led to the conclusion that he had been the murderer. We proceed to place before our readers the details of these tragical and melancholy occurrences. The unfortunate female thus early brought to an untimely end, was a domestic in the house of H.Davison, Esq., Sir John Broughton's land steward, where she had lived about twelve months, during which time, her conduct had been most exemplary. The age of the unfortunate female was 16, and she is described as having been a remarkably fine girl, with pleasing manners, and of an address rather superior to her situation in life. Her parents reside about a mile from Mr. Davison's and are said to have brought up their family in the most praiseworthy manner. The deceased was the third of a family of six children. The man suspected to have committed the murder, (Thomas Bagguley) was also in the service of Mr. Davison, as a labourer in which service he had been for the last four years. He had previously been employed for twenty-one years by Mr. Richard Dobson, and had the character of a quiet, honest, hardworking: he was of rather a reserved disposition, and not given to conversation, He was about 50 years of age and had a wife and a family of eight children living. From his conduct for a number of years, the last suspicion that would have arisen was that he would perpetrate any such offence as that now attributed to him, nor is it known that the slightest intimacy existed between him and the young woman. The leading facts connected with this melancholy affair at present known are as follows;- On Monday morning, just after midnight, Mrs. Davison was awake by Mary MALPAS, the deceased, knocking at her door and asking if she might leave the house, as someone had brought her word that her mother was dangerously ill, and wanted her to go home directly. Mrs. D. did not ask her who the messenger was, but immediately gave her permission, and heard her go downstairs and out of the doors, never to return again. Mrs. D. soon afterwards went down to see that the door was secure, when she found it was locked, and the key gone, taken as she supposed by the young woman in order to let herself in again on her return. On Mr. Davison's family rising in the morning, a ladder was found on the grass plot below the window of the girl's room; it had been brought from another part of the premises, and it is supposed for the purpose of awakening the young woman without disturbing the family. The body of the young woman was found about five o'clock in a field not a quarter of a mile from Mr. Davison's house, in the state hereafter described. There was no footpath through this field, and it was not the shortest way to the house where the parents of the young woman lived, although a person might go that way, and it would be only a little circuitous. The body of the man was found, as described by the witnesses, in about an hour afterwards; and the two striking facts, that he would not go to bed at his own house, though repeatedly desired to do so, but was left up; and that he had the key in his pocket which the young woman had to let herself out of the house, - These two facts prove almost to demonstration that Bagguley was the man who inveigled the girl from the house under the false pretence of her mother's illness, and in the sequel perpetrated the awful crime of murder. Our readers will draw their own conclusion from the evidence given at the Inquest, and now laid before them. The opinion formed by those who reside upon the spot, and are best acquainted with the circumstances is, that the wretched man's contrivance of decoying the ill-fated girl from her master's house in the dead of night, was only with the intention of gratifying a lust which, under all the circumstances, cannot be attributed to anything less than Satanic influence; and then finding the unfortunate object of his desires virtuous to death, and fearing his iniquitous conduct would come to light, deprived his hapless victim of her life! supposing this view to be correct, it is easy to imagine, that stung with remorse and goaded by the same fiend-like spirit, the wretched man decided to finish the tragical occurrence by a suicidal act. Inquests were held on view of the bodies on Tuesday, before F.Thomas Esq. coroner, and evidence given in substance as follows. Mr. George, of Doddington Farm, was foreman of the jury. The jury being sworn, viewed the body of the female at her father's house where it lay, and then, for want of room, adjourned to Mr. Dobson's. After a patient investigation of that case, and finding the verdict as stated below, they proceeded to Mr. Davison's, where the body of the unfortunate man was, and having heard the evidence, found the verdict, which is also given below.


Mrs. Davison, wife of Henry Davison Esq.,land steward to Sir John Broughton, Doddington, being sworn, deposed as follows:- The deceased, Mary MALPAS, was my servant maid on the 28th of June, and on the evening of that day she retired to bed about half-past nine; I did not observe anything particular or contrary to her usually modest deportment prior to her retiring to rest. About half-past twelve o'clock on the same night I was awoke by someone knocking at my bedroom door, and the deceased said- "Mistress, shall I go and see my mother, who is taken dangerously ill, and likely to be dead." I said "Certainly, you may go;" but did not ask her who called her up, supposing it to be either her father or one of brothers. I did not hear anyone about the house, but heard the deceased go down stairs, and in a short time leave the house. I came down stairs to lock the front door, but found it locked and the key gone. I supposed the deceased had taken it, that on her return she might let herself into the house without disturbing the family. It was our invariable custom to leave the key of the front door on the sideboard in the parlour. It was left there when I went to bed; but in the morning both the inner door and front door were wide open.

Simeon Davis, servant to Mr. George, Doddington Farm, deposed as follows - About five o'clock on Monday morning, the 29th June, I was going to fetch up my master's cows, and on going through Chapel Field, Hunsterston, (about a quarter of a mile from Doddington) I saw a woman lying on the ground, near the hedge; she was lying on her back, but inclining towards her right side; her gown and petticoats appeared much disordered; she had her bonnet on, but it was much torn in front, and her cloak was rucked up, and lay under her head as if she had been violently struggling; two clean aprons which were folded up, and her comb, lay by her side. I did not observe any marks of violence on her person; I felt at her, and found she was quite dead; I did not know her; Ralph Latham, my fellow servant, was with me; we neither of us knew her; her face was much drawn on one side, and discoloured; we supposed she was a stranger; we both knew the deceased well when she was alive, but had no idea that the woman we saw in the field was Mary MALPAS; we left her where we first saw her, and returned to our master's; met several persons on the road, and told them there was a woman lying dead in Chapel Field.

Mr. John Twemlow, surgeon, Hatherton, deposed - About 10 o'clock on Monday the 29th ult., I was sent for to examine the body of a woman, who was found dead in a field near Pepper-street Moss; I found her lying on her back, inclining to her right side. On examining her person, I found considerable blackness and darkness round her neck, with here and there a scratch; the discolouration on the neck seemed to have been made from violent pressure of the hand and appeared general round the throat. On examining the lower part of her body, I found a considerable degree of blackness on the inside of her thighs, and several scratches. If to violate her person had been the object of her destroyer, I have every reason to believe he did not effect his purpose. The ground round about where she lay was much disturbed, as if two persons had been violently struggling; and I am decidedly of opinion the deceased came to her death by strangulation from some person's hands.

Mr.E.Barker, surgeon, Audlem, deposed; about four o'clock p.m. on Monday the 29th ult. I saw the body of the deceased Mary MALPAS at her father's, John MALPAS, Hunsterston Lodge. On examining the upper part of her throat, I found there had been much pressure and violence on each side of her wind pipe, with the appearance of finger nails penetrating through the skin, producing strangulation. On examining the thighs and legs I found much redness and discolouration about them, produced apparently from excessive friction, as though she had been struggling violently with some person. I believe her person had not been violated, but that an attempt had been made. There was also much blackness and redness about the face and on the upper part of her breasts. The discolouration of the upper part of the body is to be accounted for by the pressure on the vessels of the neck, preventing the return of the blood; consequently, the minute vessels would become distended, producing blackness and swelling on the surface of the body. I am decidedly of opinion she died from strangulation.

Ann MALPAS, wife of John MALPAS, bricklayer, and mother of the deceased, deposed: The deceased, Mary MALPAS, was my daughter, and lived with Mr. Davison, of Doddington. I did not send on the 28th ult. anyone to my daughter to say I was ill, and if she wished to see me alive must come directly. I was not at all unwell on that day, but as well as ever I was in my life.

John Shuker, labourer, Hunsterston, deposed: Yesterday morning the 29th of June, I went to the house of Mr. Davison, of Doddington, to meet Thomas Bagguley, labourer, who had agreed the previous evening to assist me in loading some calves. In consequence of Bagguley not coming to his work at Mr. Davison's as usual, Mrs. Davison asked me to go to his house to enquire for him. I saw his wife, who said he had not been at home the whole of the night. On returning to Mrs. Davison's, she desired to tie up the cows and suckle the calves, and by that time Bagguley might be come to his work. After tying up the cows I went to fetch the calves out of a hay crib adjoining the cow house, thinking the calves might be there, though it was not the usual place they were kept in. The hasp was on staple of the door post and a hanging lock through the staple, but not locked. On opening the door, I observed a man's legs. the knees of which were bent, and his feet touching the straw under him. I started back alarmed; on recovering myself I went in, and, taking him by the shoulders, I turned his face towards me, and saw it was Thomas Bagguley. He was suspended by a rope tied round his neck with a running noose, fastened to a ladder which was over the hole where the hay is put down into the hay crib below to fodder the cows. On seeing his face, I knew it to be Thomas Bagguley, Mr. Davison's labourer; he was quite dead. I alarmed Mr. Davison's family, and went with two men to the hay crib, when Simeon Davis took out his knife and cut him down. It was a small cord which was round his neck. I then and asked Mrs. Davison for the keys of the stable: she could not find them, but said Bagguley might have them in his pocket, and desired me to examine; on feeling in his pockets I found several keys, which I took out; one of the keys opened the stable door, and the rest I hung on a nail in the inside of the stable. I do not know whether I took from his pocket the key of the front door, but if I see it I can tell whether it is the same I took out of Bagguley's pocket. (The key of Mr. Davison's door, by which the young woman let herself out, was brought). The key now produced is one of those I took out of his pocket and hung on a nail in the inside of the stable.

(A gentleman who was present told this witness that if he ever should be placed in the same unfortunate situation, and see a fellow creature hanging, he hoped he would have courage enough immediately to cut him down, rather than lose all chance of saving his life by wasting time in seeking for assistance, when nothing more was wanted but presence of mind in the individual.)

Thomas Bagguley, labourer, son of the deceased, deposed - I work on the rail-road, but generally sleep at home at the week's end; I was at my father's house on Sunday night the 28th ult; my mother asked my father to go to bed several times, about half past 9 o'clock; she went to bed about 10 o'clock; she requested him to go with her; he said "I am coming," but did not follow her; I then locked the door, and left the key in the lock, and said, "Father, come to bed;" he again said "I am coming," but did not follow me. When I was in bed I heard my mother several times call to him to come to bed; his answer invariable was "I am coming;" about two o'clock my mother awoke, and not finding him in bed she went down stairs; he was not in the house; the door was locked and the key put under the door. I got up about 4 o'clock, and found the door locked, and the key put under; when I went to bed I locked the door and left the key in the lock.

Henry Davison, Esq., Doddington, deposed - The key now produced, and sworn to by John Shuker, as the one he took out of Bagguley's pocket, is the key of my front door, and was left on the sideboard, in my parlour, on Sunday evening, about Half-past 9, June 28.

The jury, after a few minute’s consultation, returned a verdict:

Wilful murder against Thomas Bagguley, deceased, for having in the night of Sunday, June 28th, feloniously and wilfully destroyed the deceased Mary Malpas, by strangulation.


Simon Davis, a labourer of Mr. George's, Doddington Farm, deposed as follows - On Monday morning, June 29, I was alarmed by John Shuker, who came from Mr. Davison's, saying that Thomas Bagguley had hung himself; I went with him to Mr. Davison's, and on going to the place where fodder is put down for the use of the cows, I saw a man hanging by a rope or small cord, fastened round his neck, with his knees bent, and nearly touching the ground; I took out my knife and cut the cord and laid him down; he was quite dead; it was the body of Thomas Bagguley; the cord was fastened to the stave of a ladder, placed over the hole where the hay is put down into the hay crib below.

John Shuker, labourer, deposed: On Monday morning last, June 29th, I was at Mr. Davison's, of Doddington, when I was desired to tie up the cows and suckle the calves, belonging to Mr. Davison. After attending to the cows, I went to a hay crib adjoining the cow house for the calves, supposing they were there. The door was fastened by the hasp being placed on the staple, and a hanging lock passing through the staple, but not locked. On opening the door, I saw the legs of a man who was hanging by a small cord tied round his neck, his feet touching the straw under him, and his knees bent. I was alarmed and stepped back. On recovering myself I went in, and, laying hold of his shoulders, turned his face towards me; I then saw it was Thomas Bagguley, and that he was quite dead. I left him hanging and fetched Simeon Davis and Ralph Latham to my assistance. Simeon Davis took out his knife and cut the cord by which he was suspended, and he fell down on the floor of the cow bin, where he now lies. I saw him at two o'clock on Sunday afternoon, and conversed with him some time; he was then in good spirits, and very pleasant, as much so as I ever saw him. I never saw any signs of insanity in him and have known him for some years.


That the deceased feloniously and willfully destroyed himself by suspending himself to a ladder, with a small cord, on the morning of the 29th June.


Here’s another newspaper report on the Malpas murder:


This county has obtained an unenviable notoriety for the commission of crimes of the most revolting character. The following exhibits a picture of depravity and crime which it is shocking to contemplate. A man advanced in years - a hoary headed sinner with grown up children, leaves his own house, his wife and family, in the dead of night, and succeeds in decoying a young female, only 17 years of age, the servant of a neighbouring gentleman, from her master's house, under pretence that her mother is dying and wishes to see her. In going across the fields, he attempts the gratification of his brutal passion by violating her person; and failing to accomplish his purpose he strangles his victim. As a catastrophe to this tale of depravity, he hangs himself in a cowhouse! The following is a brief narrative of the particulars of this double tragedy, an on the inquests held on the bodies.

The unfortunate female deceased was named Mary MALPAS, and was in the service of Mr. Henry Davison, steward to Sir John Delves Broughton, Bart. at Doddington Park, near Nantwich.

The suicide: Thomas Baguley, was a labourer also in the employ of the said gentleman, and resided at Walherton. It appears from the testimony of Baguley's son, that his father was at home at 11 o'clock on Sunday night; and after the rest of the family had retired for the night, he was repeatedly called to by his wife to come to bed, but he refused to do so. At two o'clock in the morning, it was discovered that he had left the house, and he did not return afterwards. Mrs. Davison stated that she and her family went to bed about half past nine o'clock on Sunday evening. About one o;clock on Monday morning, the servant girl, Mary MALPAS, knocked at her bedroom door, to ask if she might go to see her mother who was dying. Mrs. Davison, without inquiring how the girl obtained the information, gave her permission to go, and on going downstairs to lock the door after her, she found that it was already locked, and the key missing.

On Monday morning two labouring men named Simon Davies and Ralph Latham, in going through what are called the Chapel Fields, in Hunsterston, a short distance from Mr. Davison's house, found the dead body of Mary MALPAS. She was lying on her back, her clothes were above her knees, and otherwise in disorder; her bonnet was much torn; her combs were lying beside her; and the appearances on the grass and the ground near the body clearly indicated that there had been a violent struggle. About six o'clock on Monday morning, Baguley was discovered in a shippon suspended by his neck with a rope from one of the steps of a ladder. He was quite dead and cold. He appeared to have been resolutely bent upon self-destruction, for his feet rested upon the ground even with his knees bent. In his pocket were found several keys, and among them the key of Mr. Davison's front door.

From the testimony of Mr. John Twemlow and Mr. Edward Barker, the surgeons who examined the body of the deceased female, it appeared that the neck was very much discoloured all round, as if it had been clasped, and the windpipe violently pressed by both hands, and the finger nails had penetrated through the skin over the trachea. The face and breast exhibited marks of discolouration from bruises. The general appearance indicated that there had been a violent struggle and left no doubt of the nature of the crime that was attempted to be perpetrated before death, although, in the opinion of both these gentlemen, it had not been accomplished. The coroner's jury, in the case of Mary MALPAS, found a verdict of wilful murder against Thomas Baguley; and in the second a verdict of FELO-DE-SE (see below). This dreadful affair has, as may well be supposed, excited a great sensation in the neighbourhood. The family and relatives of both the deceased, are in a state of distraction more easily conceived than described.

Note on the definition of "FELO-DE-SE"

Felo de se (A felon of himself): Is one who, being of sound mind and years of discretion, deliberately causes their own death and also, in some cases, where one maliciously attempts to kill another, and in the carrying out of such attempt unwillingly kills themselves, they are adjudged felo de se.   

When the deceased is found by the coroner and jury a felo de se, all their chattels, real and personal are forfeited to the Crown, though they are usually restored upon payment of moderate fees.  

Until 1823 it was the practice in England to bury suicides, or  felo de se, at a cross-roads with a stake driven through their body. But George IV provided that a  felo de se shall be interred privately at night, between the hours of 9pm and midnight, without religious service, in the burial-ground in which their remains might by law have been interred, if the verdict of felo de se had not been found against them. 

In 1882 both these restrictions were removed.